Howl, a self-portrait in charcoal and oil on board, 56 x 74 cm
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical naked ...
What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open
their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination?
Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unobtainable dollars!
Children screaming under the stairways!
Boys sobbing in armies! Old men weeping in the parks!
Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the
loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy judger of men!
Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the
crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of
sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgment!
Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stunned governments!
Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose
blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers
are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo!
Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb!
Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows!
Moloch whose skyscrapers stand in the long
streets like endless Jehovahs! Moloch whose factories
dream and croak in the fog! Moloch whose
smokestacks and antennae crown the cities!
Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch
whose soul is electricity and banks! Moloch
whose poverty is the specter of genius!
Moloch in whom I sit lonely! Moloch in whom I dream
from Howl, by Alan Ginsberg
listen to Alan Ginsberg read this section (Part II) of Howl on Youtube here
Howl and Other Poems (City Lights Pocket Poets Series)
This self-portrait is a refinement of the technique i developed and described here.
Still on the theme of aging, this self-portrait is a generational piece. It does not carry the same intimately personal charge as the self-portrait Regrets. Instead it concerns itself with the social visions and convictions of a generation.
This was the 'beat' generation of the 1950's. It was the generation before mine but their lifestyle and voices were to sound loud and clear through the 1960's and on into the '70s. The Ginsberg poem voices all the excesses, optimism, despair, restlessness and fervor of youth. It contains the protest voice of youth which was to reach a crescendo in the 1960's.
Youth and old age actually have a surprising amount in common. Both are not deeply immersed in careers and therefore deeply attached to the socio-political and economic order of the day. Both are relatively free to raise a critical voice which those raising families and paying mortgages are not as mentally free to do.
I believe the elderly, because they have seen so much, have a particularly important social role to play as reviewers and commentators.
Once again, the young and the old are called to be the prophets of our age.
This self-portrait aims to express a howl of pain at the state of global industrial civilisation, and a prophetic howl by once again invoking Ginsberg's rage against the corporate machinery, the urban madhouse, the planetary plunder that has marked this generation and has marred this generation.
For Blake's dark satanic mills are still pumping the fetid effluvia of a long dead geological age off the coast of Florida to give an angry fix to a world hooked on octane, pelicans drowning in our black decay while we ineffectually jog off our obesity in trendy trainers from the sweat-shops of Asia.
And thanks, Elizabeth Anderson, for your comment below which put me in mind of Peter Finch's stirring prophetic outburst of outrage in the movie Network.
"I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you've got to get mad. You've got to say, 'I'm a HUMAN BEING, Goddamnit! My life has VALUE!' So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell: 'I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!'
You can watch Peter Finch's stunning performance on Youtube here.
but the last voice here today belongs to Alan Ginsberg, so if you want another taste, read on:
Moloch! Moloch! Robot apartments!
invisible suburbs! skeleton treasuries!
blind capitals! demonic industries!
spectral nations! invincible mad houses!
granite cocks! monstrous bombs!
They broke their backs lifting Moloch to Heaven!
Pavements, trees, radios, tons!
lifting the city to Heaven which exists and is everywhere about us!
Visions! omens! hallucinations! miracles! ecstasies!
gone down the American river!